Run of the Kitchen

Yesterday in Garde Manger, something new and exciting happened to us.  We were told to make four or five appetizers, 10 portions of each.  Go.  There were no recipes given.  No ideas.  No assignments.  Just free rein of the kitchen.  I didn’t think Chef was serious.  In fact, nobody really sprang into action after he said we had free rein.  We all stood there, a little dumbfounded and confused and then started running around the kitchen, calling dibs on the salami and asking other groups for half their red pepper.

No recipes?  That’s like Christmas come early for a bunch of culinary students!  We’ve been through our fair share of classes where the chef was none to happy with us trying to deviate from the recipes.  You make cioppino the Chef’s way or the high way.  It didn’t matter if we thought it tasted like tomato flavored water with a hint of pepper.  Our opinion didn’t count.  Why wouldn’t want to change recipes?  We’re here because we like to play with our food!  We like to manipulate it, add this and take away that.  Garnish with this, not that.  We want to make it ours.  The only way to find out how different ingredients interact with each other is to change them.

After about 10 minutes of brainstorming, this is what our group decided to make for our appetizer platter:

  • canapes: baguette topping with balsamic onions, tomato, mozzarella, basil and proscuitto.
  • vegetable spring rolls with peanut sauce. <= Stephanie makes the best sauces.  
  • begger’s purses – wanton wrappers baked and filled with cabbage, apple, cucumber, carrot with mayo based dressing
  • potato pancakes topped with cheddar cheese and a sunny side up quail egg (my contribution).

It was sort of a clean-the-walk-in type of day, so we were really just trying to use up as many ingredients as possible.  I ended up loving our finished platter, simply because it was so colorful.  I think we had every color of the rainbow on our platter and lots of fresh vegetables, something that is often missing from cooking at school.  (If you do get vegetables, their probably covered in butter.)

Everybody wants something to call their own, no?  There really isn’t a better feeling than coming up with an idea and then making it come to fruition.  Some people hate talking about their food in front of class.  I don’t know if they get embarrassed or they’re not proud of what they made, but I happen to love talking about my own food.  There’s a lot of power behind the phrase, “I made…” or “This is my…” and taking ownership for something.  I want people to know when I’ve made something.  I want people to know about the food my group produced.  Even if my food doesn’t turn out the way I want it to, that’s the beauty of peer review.  I can always get ideas about how improve what I’ve made.

Hope your weekend is off to a fabulous start!

Childhood favorite: pb and j with foie gras. And mint dust. By far the weirdest sandwich I've ever had.

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